Anger, Laughter, and the Practice
In House: Medha Garud on Ayurveda and Spinal Care
In her work as a physical therapist, Medha Garud has witnessed first-hand the empowering effects of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Through the practice of Ayurveda, we have the ability to heal our bodies, rewire our minds, and extend our lives. Read on to hear Medha’s thoughts on spinal care, pain management, and holistic health.
Health from an Ayurvedic Perspective
The top three ways in which we encourage health from an Ayurvedic perspective are through diet, lifestyle, and environment. Ayurveda doesn’t prescribe a one-size-fits-all diet, but rather an individualized diet plan based on our specific body type. Following this plan keeps us in balance.
We try to live our lives as a yogi might. Yogis are often able to live for a hundred years, but we don’t see many non-yogis living that long. This is because we are so often out of sync with nature. Ayurveda teaches us how to be as close to nature as possible, and how to align our lifestyle with the natural cycles of the seasons.
Living with mindfulness in our environment doesn’t necessarily mean that if it’s cold outside, we eat warm food, or if it’s warm outside, we eat cooling foods. It means that our mental and emotional environments are healthy as well. Ayurveda teaches us how to build strength to deal with challenges, or it empowers us to move away from things that are not healthy in our lives.
Spinal Care & Ayurveda
I’m a physical therapist, and I’ve been treating patients with spinal health issues for 20 years. Before I incorporated Ayurveda into my practice, I never felt that I was reaching for the root cause of these problems that my patients were dealing with. I’d be able to give them short-term relief and advice, but then they’d be in my office again a few months later, dealing with the same issues that brought them in in the first place.
I feel that Ayurveda and yoga hold the answer to long-term wellness, because they address the root cause of these problems, rather than just soothing the symptoms.
Research suggests that different people feel pain in different ways based on their perception of it. When our perception of pain changes, reported levels of pain actually go down. With this workshop, we use the principles put forth in yoga and Ayurveda to help people manage their pain by changing their perspective on it. We’re building new neural pathways in the brain, and building confidence and body autonomy through yoga postures.
We also talk a lot about how Ayurvedic principles can contribute to pain management. An Ayurvedic lifestyle not only remedies the physical presence of pain, but the mental and emotional presence of it as well. We provide anti-inflammatory recipes, and teach meditation and Ayurvedic lifestyle guidelines to promote a holistic approach to a pain-free life. Each person comes away from the workshop with an individualized plan, because, as practitioners of Ayurveda know, every person is different and has different needs. As one of our participants, B. Saccone, said: “I feel more calm, but more importantly, looking forward to using these Ayurvedic techniques to maintain balance.”
Living a Pain-Free Life
So many people have been able to move more freely now, without pain. They’ve learned a more healthy way of life, how to eat correctly, and how to live according to nature. They also come away from the workshop with a new knowledge of yoga postures and mudras. “I am at peace with my body and my mind is calm,” said Michelle, another participant of the Ayurveda and Spine Care program. To change your pain, you must change your life, and through Ayurvedic principles, a long, healthy, pain-free life is possible.
Medha Garud is a physical therapist, yoga therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner, and RYT 500. Join Medha at the Art of Living Retreat Center for Ayurveda Awareness & Spinal Care from Oct 20-22.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Wellness, Naturally: Sail Through Summer
Summer fun – lots of fresh air, sunshine, outdoor activities, and socializing abound, but unless we maintain balance, we may find our energy sapped and tapped from excesses when we over indulge or work hard out in the heat.
In spring and the onset of summer, we see lots of vibrantly colored, hearty plants and flowers. Having endured the heat, by August, we may notice that many of the plants and flowers lose their vibrancy and color and begin to wilt.
Mimicking what goes on in nature, we also begin to wilt in August if we have been going at it too hard at work and/or play. For many of us, the summer sun, heat and lack of discipline in daily routine take their toll and we start to notice dry, chalky skin, lack of energy, dehydration, irritability, and a need for a more steady daily routine that puts us in a good “head space” for making better choices.
Here are my tips for a sense of elevation, elation, and rejuvenation…
Continue to eat seasonally and favor sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Give special consideration to cherries, watermelon, pomegranate, and apples for their ability to activate heat removal, hydration and lymphatic flow in the body. Eating al fresco is great, just avoid being in direct sunlight and very hot temperatures. Minimize meat intake due to its heating and heavy nature and eat in a calm, relaxed environment whenever possible.
Summer can be a very social time of year so, you may be fishing for a little down time at this point. Reel it in by not over scheduling yourself and plan some time for relaxing at home. It is said that music soothes the savage beast. You may want to add ocean sounds, whales, birds, and other soothing sounds to your playlist and enjoy those sounds at home, in the car, or at work if permissible.
Beat the heat! Favor dissipation over perspiration with yoga. A supine, supported, restorative bound angle posture might be just what you need to cool your jets; along with some cooling breath work such as chandra bhedana, shitali or shitkari. Your yoga teacher can provide instruction.
Becoming overheated can induce irritability, a judgmental nature, an overall negative attitude and feelings of inadequacy. We can be hard on others but even harder on ourselves. Come in for a landing, sit down, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, scan your body to find areas of tension and restriction and give yourself permission to relax and let go. Finding the balance between “doing” and “being” is one of the most important practices we can have. Some of us tend to value doing over being. Remember, we are human beings- practice compassion for yourself and others.
The wonderful wisdom of herbs can play a vital role in, what Ayurveda calls rasayana, or rejuvenation. One of the top herbs for this time of year is amalaki. Consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for the protocol that is right for you, as it is important for your health history to be taken into consideration when herbs are recommended.
The methods of rasayana provided by diet, lifestyle, yoga, herbs and compassion for one’s self and others rejuvenate the cytoplasm and protein of plasma, kindle the digestive fire, maintain tone of the tissues, enhance the life span of cells, cellular memory and cellular intelligence, promote normal, healthy psychological function, a melodious voice, strength and stamina, and bring functional synchronicity to the organs. There are rasayana methods for each of the 7 tissues (plasma, blood, muscle, bone, fat, nervous & reproductive tissue) that can greatly improve quality of life.
Interested in learning more about the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Walking the Path: Going With the Flow in March
Going With the Flow
March tends to be that time of year that is like a line from the movie Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.” It can come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or serve up any number of weather combinations in between.
Because the weather can be so unpredictable at this time of year, things are not black and white in terms of our Ayurvedic daily routine. We need to go with the flow and be comfortable in the grey areas, too. Some days may find us walking around in hats, scarves, and gloves, deep in thought, and other days may find us driving around with the sunroof open, jamming to our favourite songs on the radio without a care in the world.
Flexing Your Ayurvedic Muscles
If you’ve been practicing Ayurveda for a while, March provides you with the perfect opportunity to ‘flex your Ayurvedic muscles’, and see how you fare with attempting to go with the flow. When you observe how you are feeling and do a little bit of calibrating, you can take the ‘March Madness’ weather in stride, and remain in balance.
If Ayurveda is new to you, this can be a tricky time of year to navigate. Perhaps you have just gotten used to your winter routine, and now Mother Nature is throwing you all sorts of curve balls from one day to the next. Never fear, Ayurveda is here! Here are some tips to support you during this transitional time of year.
Ayurveda in March
If you’ve been using sesame oil for your winter oil massage (abhyanga), and it seems a bit heavy right now, you may want to explore siwtching to an oil like apricot kernel that still pacifies winter qualities (vata), but also has the ability to appease the spring qualities (kapha). Apricot kernel oil is smooth, light, and supports healthy functioning of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Its redolence is lovely, too! You can also stick with your current oil, but alternate oiling one day and dry brushing the next.
If you live in an area where you are receiving more rain, or a good deal of snow is melting, you may want to get cooking with a variety of grains that are slightly heating and naturally diuretic, such as barley and millet. The warming and astringent quality of these grains will support your body’s ability to let go of any excess water or dampness that it might otherwise retain at this time of year.
On a personal note, I always get outside all year round for a walk or run, but this year I found myself not getting out as much as usual. I noticed that I felt disconnected and sad sometimes, without any particular reason. As soon as I got back outside, I felt re-energized, reconnected, and it really elevated my sense of happiness. Getting out in nature is a simple act, but has profound results. Try to notice whether you got outside enough this winter, and how it may have affected your overall mood and energy level.
Practicing Ayurvedic principles doesn’t have to be all or nothing – a few simple steps can make a big difference in our health and happiness. We don’t call it Ayurve-duh for nothing!
– Diana Bellofatto
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Art of Silence: Philip Fraser on Stillness and Alignment
We recently caught up with Philip Fraser, who has been teaching the Art of Silence since the early 1990s, to talk about the power of stillness and alignment. Philip offers his insights on letting go of distractions, becoming more present and aligned, and channeling balance and energy through the practice of stillness.
Being in Alignment
If someone is out of alignment with themselves, and therefore harming their own system, chances are they’re going to be insensitive to others around them and to the environment as well. But when we’re in alignment, we are sensitive to our own nature and to the world around us. Alignment starts at an individual level – so how do we get back into it?
Children are completely in alignment with themselves. They know when they’re tired or hungry; when they’re upset, they cry, when they’re happy, they laugh. There is no filter, no interruption between the emotion and the action. This is our natural state.
To re-align yourself with your experience, you need to allow yourself to experience your feelings and process your situations like a child would. In this way, you give yourself an outlet, which in turn gives you a degree of separation after the fact. You have already experienced a reaction, so these problems don’t have the chance to take over your mind later on.
Of course, we need to have the ability to perform socially in order to exist in the world, and that means we can’t cry whenever we feel like it – but this often leads to a complete disconnection with ourselves, and we can’t seem to reconnect.
A very simple way to process these feelings, to come back into alignment with yourself, is just to practice stillness. Not just physical stillness, but mental as well. You’re giving yourself a break.
The average person never stops. We are inundated with external stimuli, and are trained to be constantly multitasking. Not many people will feel comfortable sitting quietly or focusing on one task anymore – you see it in airports, for instance. Nobody is content to just sit there. We are constantly involved in some form of activity.
One of the many results of this constant activity is the inability to comfortably fall asleep. We don’t feel like our minds are capable of settling down at night.
Nature works in cycles – you have day and night, light and dark, winter and spring, and at the root of all of these, dormancy and activity. Your mind and body need that stillness, that silence, to properly rest.
I illustrate this with an analogy of a bow and arrow. If you want the arrow to fly far one way, you pull it back in the opposite direction and let go. Instictively, we know this, but nowadays it’s hard to find the time and place to slow down, turn off our cell phones, and spend time with nature and with ourselves. The silence course gives us an opportunity to do this.
Releasing Thoughts and Emotions
Stillness rejuvenates us, it allows us to release our thoughts and feelings by experiencing them. We tend to deal with emotions by experiencing them briefly, then putting them away and claiming we’re fine. But these emotions don’t go away – they become dormant, stored inside of you. And so many of us just leave them there, or dwell on them, neither of which are helpful strategies.
The silence retreat helps us to realign ourselves in a formal way, through meditation and focused attention to the breath and body. During meditation, we often, without even trying, work through those old dormant emotions.
This doesn’t mean that you need to re-live traumatic events, or have a breakdown – it’s just, very simply, a time of letting go. There is definitely a degree of separation when you are observant of your feelings – “This is how I’m feeling right now”, or “This is what’s happening in my thoughts”. This awareness is enough to release those emotions, to send them on their way. It is a bit of a challenge, because we are not used to being alone with ourselves, facing ourselves like that. But it’s transformative.
Another way of realigning ourselves is to realize that we are, quite simply, pure energy. For example, kids have so much great energy, and they spring back so easily from every emotion. That fluidity, that flexibility, is our nature. Our nature is to be diverse; our nature is to have a lot of varied emotions going on at any given moment.
At some point, we start to deny any negative thoughts or emotions within ourselves. We strive to only feel happiness. But can you imagine going to a movie and watching people being happy for two yours? It would be torture! We enjoy, live, and thrive on the full experience of life, the dark and light. It is what makes us whole.
To learn more about Silent Retreats, click here.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Spiritual Healing Retreats
Spirituality is not just about religion. It is about the connection you feel to the world as a whole. Human beings were not meant to feel alone. We are social animals that have, throughout our history, felt ourselves as a part of nature – one that has its own spirit, and is not simply a vessel of nerves and muscles. It’s not uncommon to find yourself drifting away from that feeling of soul and spirit. Spiritual healing retreats are designed to bring you back. Each retreat is its own unique experience designed to rejuvenate the soul and restore your sense of spirituality.
What’s Involved in Spiritual Healing Retreats?
Every retreat has its own unique character and personality. What you are looking for with any spiritual retreat is a variety of features that are unique to you. For example:
- Time with Nature
Those living in the city life often miss out on one of the most important keys for boosting the soul – time outside, surrounded by nature, and away from the cities. Nature is something you can feel, and something that the mind needs to feel at peace.
- Spiritual Guidance
From yoga to classes, there are many different activities that bring out someone’s spirit, provided that you are led by those that are able to offer the guidance and inspiration that you need for spiritual growth.
Getting more in touch with your inner spirit involves taking time for yourself. Guided meditation, as well as activities for quiet and relaxation are all great ways to feel restored.
- “Soul” Food
It’s difficult to nourish your soul if you aren’t nourishing your body. Several spiritual healing retreats integrate meals that detoxify the body and refresh your mind. This allows you to feel less bogged down mentally, and experience more spiritually.
Finally, stress is the enemy of spirituality. Your spiritual healing retreat needs to give you the opportunity to simply relax and enjoy your time away from your concerns and challenges.
Spiritual Healing Retreats at the Art of Living Retreat Center
When you feel more in touch with your spiritual side, it is something that reverberates through other areas of your life as well, including how you feel at work, the motivation you have to manage your home life, and so much more. For more information about our spiritual healing retreats in North Carolina, please feel free and view our calendar or call us to find out about our upcoming retreats.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Exploring Wisdom: The Stillpoint Group on Finding Direction
Are you completely, wildly, head-over-heels in love with your life? The Stillpoint Group wants the answer to be an enthusiastic “YES!”.
The Stillpoint Group created the From Here to Where Retreat to help participants “live outrageously”. She believes that a passionate, meaningful life is within reach for each and every person, and that health, happiness, and fulfillment are our birthright. This program give us the tools and support we need to bridge the gap between the life we’ve always lived, and the life that will set our hearts and souls on fire.
New Year, New You
2016 has challenged each one of us on so many different levels. We have been pushed to examine our beliefs, judgments and stories about many aspects of our outer and inner worlds. We’re at a critical point in our collective and individual evolution, where the old ways of thinking and behaving are being brought to the surface for acknowledgement and healing. It’s not easy to let go of the familiar, and many of us are struggling to find new ways to express ourselves that do not reflect our old, stale patterns.
From Here to Where?
We instinctually know when the time comes to reinvent ourselves on a higher energetic plane, but for many of us, we have no idea what that looks like. After all, the soul has no road map.
You might feel as though you’ve lost your purpose, your direction. You might be unsure of who this new You is, so you cling to the old You for safety. You might find it hard to relate to some of your friends, who somehow, have begun to feel more like strangers. The chaotic energy of the outside world sometimes feels like it is inside of you, and you might feel lost and tired and hopeless.
These sorts of feelings are a common theme for many of our clients, and in our own lives as well, and this is why we were motivated to create our retreats.
In these retreats, we offer solutions and tools to release the patterns that no longer serve us, and to empower individuals to live consciously and passionately. The safe, supportive and energized space that a group generates is a wonderful place to let go and discover new and amazing aspects of yourself.
We focus on giving you information and practices that inform the whole of you – mind, body and spirit.
Happiness is Your Birthright.
These are two of my favorite quotes from one of my teachers, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:
“The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” and,
“What we put our attention on, will grow stronger in our life.”
It took me many years to understand the first teaching. I had no idea that I had so many beliefs, judgments, and personas inside of me. One persona is as a daughter, another as a sister, a wife, mother, a boss, business woman, and so on. All of these identities, with all of their beliefs, took immense energy to maintain, and I had no idea who I really was underneath. I had to be willing to let go of each and every one of my personas to discover the real Me. It took help and loving support from others, and focused attention on my goals, to attain the freedom, peace and joy that I choose to experience in each moment. This is everyone’s birthright, but you need to claim it for yourself- and we are here to help you.
Fall in Love with Your Life
I challenge you to do these three simple things every day, and watch your world change:
- Tell someone how amazing they are, including yourself.
- Find five things to be grateful for in your life.
- Smile at strangers and yourself in the mirror.
We are Divine beings experiencing a journey in a physical body, on a beautiful planet. Let your journey be filled with passion, excitement, amazement, fun, joy and love for everything.
A life that you are passionately in love with is within reach. So many that have taken this journey with us have transformed their lives – and you can, too.
The Stillpoint Group is a collective of uniquely qualified alternative healthcare practitioners, who, between them, have been in practice for over 60 years and are licensed or certified in more than 40 areas, including naturopathic medicine, bodywork and energy medicine, and emotional and spiritual counselling. For the last decade, they have helped their clients reinvent their lives by recognizing their specific body/mind map distortions and creating a synergystic plan that allows for incredible growth and transformation. Find out about their transformation
Seeking Something Greater: Ryan’s Story
Ryan shares about his experience doing a yoga teacher training program in Boone with Val Spies, teacher trainer and head of Lotus Pond Yoga.
Right after high school I was a little lost and I did not know where to go. In my first few years of college I started doing yoga. Finding yoga helped me look into myself and figure out who I am. I had started that path of seeking something greater than just everyday life. First it was mostly physically, and it is slowly evolving into more of a mental practice. It is an evolving process. I started to feel better about my life because of my yoga practice. My biggest inspiration was the hunger to know more about myself, the nature of reality, and nature itself. I found this path and slowly got more and more involved in yoga.
To me, happiness is being content in the present moment and taking what it has to offer. I decided to do this teacher training to increase my knowledge base and provide for my students a more authentic experience. This program taught me to notice the good, the bad, the labels, what we define the moment as, and how to come back to center, my anchor. It is about feeling it all, and being okay with it.
My favorite pose is shavasana because it is meditative to melt into the floor and absorb it all. This training offered silent meditation, which isn’t always easy, but this is a very supportive place for that. The people here naturally understand your needs and it is a natural environment that is a very conducive to an enlightening experience. My favorite spot at the center is the labyrinth. Being able to overlook that area and see all the wildflowers, the occasional bunny, somebody walking around and meditating, or doing it myself is a pretty fantastic experience.
This weekend has been incredible. I’ve done silent and seated focus awareness meditation. It has helped me stay present in the moment. It has anchored me in, and provided this foundation to harvest presence in the moment. Being able to share space with beautiful people in a beautiful space was incredible. I am excited to come from that space and offer that to my students.
The Art of Living Retreat Center offers many yoga retreats for all ages, body types, and experience levels. If you are interested in learning more, click here.
Happiness Program: Setting the Best Tone for the Day
Note: We sat down for a conversation with Dan Joy (appropriately named) about his sources of happiness and how the Happiness Program has affected his life. Dan is a budding, multi-talented musician, who shares both about music and how the Happiness techniques set the tone for the day.
Before and After
- Before I started this, my work routine would look like this:
- wake up 30 minutes before the shift starts,
- frantically get dressed,
- brush my teeth,
- run out the door,
- be five minutes late to work and…
From the onset, from the minute I woke up to an alarm I’d be stressed out. Then I’d get to work that way. Stress translated into my work whether I was working with food or as a server.
It always comes across if I come to work feeling frantic or frazzled. So now, I give myself plenty of time in the morning to get myself ready and then I take time to meditate.
The breathing practices have actually changed me a lot. Ever since I took the Happiness course, and learned the Sudarshan Kriya, I practice on a daily basis. I usually wake up a little before the sun rises or with the sun rise, start off with a little bit of yoga and then go into the Sudarshan Kriya and meditate for a while before I come to breakfast.
I’ve found that when I come to work having already centered myself, it’s way easier to plan out menus, to delegate tasks to other people, or work with them. So I’ve found that it’s a great way to just get myself ready for the day. It’s become an essential part of my readiness, when I’m preparing for work and everything.
The Sudarshan Kriya
An automatic reflex happens right in that final moment in the last round of the breathing, right before you lay down. Then I lay down or kinda just sit there and be in that state and ride it out for as long as I can or try to keep track of time.
I think that is definitely my favorite part, just when the final breath is taken care of; and then it just washes over me. When I exit out of that I am just so ready for anything.
A Period of Transformation
The people that I’ve met here and the things that I’ve learned from them have absolutely changed my way of thinking and living completely. The way that I process emotions, thoughts and feelings is all so different from before. I really feel like it has helped me mature and become a man.
At the same time, in my work, working very hard with Chef Raju taught me a lot of discipline. Having a very busy work week has shown me a lot of resilience and the value of hard work.
I’ve come more into myself; I’ve grown as a person musically and professionally, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, in every possible way. I’ve just blossomed as a human being.
I am very grateful to everyone, this mountain, and the experiences I’ve had here.
Sources of Happiness
- So many activities bring me happiness:
- Playing with others.
- Walking in the woods, taking hikes.
- Seeing beautiful things.
- Sharing with other people and their dogs.
- Making food that makes people happy.
To me, music is pure expression. Whenever I pick up any instrument, I immediately go into expressing myself. Whatever emotion is dwelling inside, expressing that musically tends to make me feel better, even if I’m sad.
But if I’m happy already and go into it, it just compounds itself, like a positive feedback loop where I keep getting happier. Playing with others and having a group participate is especially uplifting; you’re borrowing energy and everybody’s on the same wave length.
Food: What It’s Like
Food is definitely interesting. In my family, it is central. At any gathering, there’s always a big spread. Everybody brings a dish. So to me, food has always represented happiness and companionship, family ties and stuff like that. Especially working here, where the people whom I work with are my family.
It brings me a lot of joy whenever I make a dish and my family members come back to me and say that made them feel good. In turn, that makes me happy.
I get into an energetic state of mind when I’m cooking. It’s a fast paced environment sometimes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that tensions are high or people are upset.
Here, I find that everybody’s usually in a good mood when we are back there in the kitchen. Even though we are moving fast, everybody’s still friendly and happy with each other. So I love that. I love that fast paced effort; working myself up to meet the deadline to get everybody fed.
State of Mind
It’s very fun and we put a lot of energy into it. You’re still working during the meal but it’s almost like a roller coaster, with up and down emotions.
Then it’s over; you just breathe a sigh of relief. Everybody gets fed, everything goes off without a hitch, and it just feels good.
Editor’s Note: A big thank you to Dan for sharing what brings him happiness. Discover more about the Happiness Program with our online series of guided meditations, breathing practices and insights. The online series is free and a great introduction to the Art of Living.
At a Crossroads: Christina’s Story
I was at a crossroads going on adventures, doing trade work, and not really knowing what I wanted to do next. I decided to look up teacher training. This one being located in the mountains and the peacefulness is everything I’m all about. My experience has been amazing. I changed a lot in a small amount of time.
This program gave me a new sense of life, a new perspective on people, myself, and this universe. I have been open understanding that others think differently. Now I feel more open minded, open to others and their cultures, and being who I am, another being in this universe. Val did an unbelievable job. The way she integrated so many different teachers and perspectives. She taught the connections between the subtle body and physical body, and so much more than the physical postures.
My personal practice makes me a more calming, loving person. Because of it I want to do more for others. After this program I am more open to that. My favorite part of yoga is the energy you feel during and after, connecting the breath to your movements, and how it flows. Yoga is a flow of energy and consciences.
Happiness is about opening up your heart to others and yourself, and being okay with not knowing everything about life. Being okay with letting the universe taking you wherever you need to be, and understanding that you are in the right place. I don’t think you can find happiness, it is something that is already in you. You just need to look within and get rid of the external distractions to get in touch with it.
Everyone here is very welcoming and helpful. Ive met so many awesome people. I love hearing how and why they came here. Their stories have been amazing. I’ve formed more bonds than I expected. Ive connected with so many people in a lot of different ways. Seeing the world in a different way has helped open our minds to the possibilities in this world.